“AKA…What A Life” and “Let The Lord Shine On A Light On Me” is the most interesting single of the three that have been released from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds ("The Death Of You & Me" / "The Good Rebel" being the first). Lazy critics have knocked Noel’s songs as little more than Beatles ripoffs and while the influence is evident in many of his classic tunes, that criticism ignores his other influences and musical interests, some of which are heard on these two songs.
He twice worked with electronic act Chemical Brothers and Oasis made an ill-fated attempt to record what would become Don’t Believe The Truth with Death In Vegas. Electronic music isn’t where Gallagher lives but he clearly likes to dabble in it as he does with “AKA… What A Life.” This is not techno or even particularly beat driven, but electronic elements are prominent. Guitars cut against the beat, instruments are filtered, processed, and sound like they’re being run backwards, and there’s a steady piano figure that works above and below the surface throughout the song.
I love his dynamic vocal, staying mostly within his range but punctuating with brief pushes into falsetto and also occasionally pulling himself back.
“Let The Lord Shine A Light On Me” opens as though it’s going to be a standard-issue Noel Gallagher acoustic B-side (note: I don’t say that as a knock, revering a great many of them) but it’s got a big, big surprise for you. The first minute of the song is acoustic strumming with an electric strum pattern laid over it along with keyboards and some light percussion. The vocal isn’t falsetto but pushes the upper end of Gallagher’s range.
As Oasis was recording Dig Out Your Soul, Noel said he wanted to do something massive with strings and horns and choirs. “Shine” doesn’t aspire to anything quite that grand but midway through a string arrangement is quickly, loudly pushed forward and a supersonic kick drum thrusts the song into another plane. Soaring backing vocals by an as-yet named female vocalist (or vocalists) create a shocking, stirring climax. It’s Noel Gallagher as we’ve never heard him before.
With “AKA…What A Life” and “The Death Of You And Me” and their corresponding B-sides, it’s obvious to me Noel is on to something and it’s killing me our UK friends have already made High Flying Birds a #1 album before we even get to hear it!